Time has begun to pass by at a faster pace the longer we have been on tour. I’ve grown accustomed to the early mornings on jump days and the late nights on load-out days, and I’ve come to treasure the special moments – whether it’s a conversation with a Trouper or fellow staff member over a cup of coffee from the pie car, or seeing a Trouper perfect the double back-flip they’ve been working on, I feel so lucky to be a part of all of this.
After Kennebunkport, it was back to Massachusetts for four shows at Manter Field in Newbury, presented by Theater In The Open. Theater In The Open is a local group whose mission is “to transform the magical tradition of storytelling into theater” and whose volunteers were both enthusiastic and excited about Smirkus. At intermission of the very first show, one of the volunteers from TITO proclaimed, “THIS IS SO COOL!” and, upon Troy’s request, the entire group – easy to spot with tie-dyed TITO t-shirts – wiggled their fingers and stood up to make a balloon “Rise!”
Edward Speck from TITO walked over to me – on stilts, no less! – and told me that it was “revolutionary” when Smirkus first came to town many years ago: the whole theater community was excited about having a real circus in town. Lydia, TITO’s Media Coordinator and another one of the volunteers, said that seeing Smirkus in action – from arrival to showtime to tearing it all down – always inspires the TITO performers to work hard. A life-size giraffe “puppet” could be seen meandering around the lot during the shows – causing laughter among staff and making one little girl say “I want to pet the giraffe!” with its’ uncannily giraffe-like movements.
Between juggling and unicycling and jumping on the trampoline, Trouper Sawyer Oubre can be seen walking around and selling trays of water and lemonade to thirsty audience members at intermission – known to Smirkos as “hawking.” I was super impressed to see him getting creative backstage – on Friday evening he added a second strap to the tray he uses to carry cups of water and lemonade, making it easier to carry, and secured it with screws.
It seems that the Troupers are full of all sorts of creativity – backstage I often see Trouper-in-Training Ariana Wunderle making friendship bracelets, before Saturday’s show Brin Schoelkopf was sketching the Big Top, and many staff and Troupers sport t-shirts designed and stenciled by Liam Gundlach.
While they wear lots of emerald green in the ring, before shows and during warm-ups the Troupers (as well as many of the staff) can be seen wearing brightly colored, patterned leggings and spandex shorts known as “Handy Spandies”. A Smirkus tradition, Anna and Connie Conway, the makers of Handy Spandies (Anna is a former Trouper!), stopped by the lot on Saturday afternoon between shows with a trailer full of shorts, capris, and skirts in all sizes and patterns. After looking through all they had to offer, it seems most of the Troupers and Staff were outfitted in brand new Handy Spandies for the tear-down that night.
With great weather, sold-out shows, and many special guests – two former Troupers, Francey (who is currently a Board Member) and Willow (who was also the Head Counselor in 2011 and 2012), stopped by – Newbury was a blast.
But while the rest of the Troupe is continuing down the road for 21 more performances of Oz Incorporated, with pride and with sadness, we sent Troupers Una Bennett and Noah Nielsen off on their new adventure! After three and four summers respectively with Smirkus, they are heading to Montreal to begin their training at Ecole Nationale de Cirque (“ENC”, for short, or the “National Circus School” in English). As I watched Una in shapes (which had one young audience member shout “WOAH, they’re diamonds!”) and Noah in diabolo for the last time, my heart swelled at how proud I am of these two performers. While it was hard to say goodbye to two much-loved Troupers, we are excited for them both as they begin the next chapter of their lives, and thrilled that they will rejoin the tour for the last shows in Greensboro.
After a good night’s sleep and – another Smirkus tradition – a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts on the way, it was off to Freeport, Maine, for four sold-out shows at the Merriconeag Waldorf School. If you haven’t already picked up tickets to see Oz Incorporated today (Monday, August 5th) or tomorrow (Tuesday, August 6th) at 1pm or 6pm, consider coming to the show in Hanover, New Hampshire, Monteplier, Vermont, or our closing shows in Greensboro- tickets are available here!